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Article describing the hatching process in poultry.
© University of Nottingham and the British Hen Welfare Trust

Photo of ducklings hatching Hatched duckling, ©Brinsea Products Ltd

Chick embryos spend 21 days inside the egg once incubation has begun. The female stops rotating her eggs in the nest 3 days before hatching. Chicks communicate in the shell by peeps at around 3 days before hatching thereby enabling a clutch of eggs to synchronize and hatch close together.

Photo of hatched duckling in an incubator with a thermometer Hatched duckling, ©Brinsea Products Ltd

Chicks use an egg tooth on the end of their top beak to break through the broad end of the shell, the egg tooth drops off soon after hatching. In the first 48 hours after hatching chicks engage in ‘filial imprinting’, a behaviour that sees them attach to one particular stimulus in their environment.

Under natural conditions the mother hen will be the stimulus. In the absence of a parent bird a chick will imprint on any alternative, this could even be another species such as a dog or goat.

Photo showing hatched chick in an incubator with a thermometer Hatched chick in a domestic incubator, ©Brinsea Products Ltd

Almost immediately after hatching chicks gain mobility and take on the behavioural traits of adult birds. However, they require parental direction to ensure they learn to identify dangers, including what to eat, where best to sleep and what to avoid (Barber, 2012)

© University of Nottingham and the British Hen Welfare Trust
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Poultry Health

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